How an artist named Bump and his whimsical creations are creating moments of joy in surprising places
photography by Penny & Fin
On a quiet street in an art-filled house lives Josh “Bump” Galletta, one of Lakeland’s up-and-coming illustrators. I stopped by the Galletta house, where Bump lives with his wife, Mary, and children Emmersyn, six, and Fynn, four, and got to catch up with the artist. He’s an animated storyteller which, given the way he’s developed and used his talents, makes his stories even more interesting.
“I’ve always drawn, since I was a little kid,” Bump says. He was inspired after he asked his dad to draw a picture for him and then realized he could do the same thing. After a while, he stopped copying other pictures and started making up his own scenes, and his love for drawing started to grow. “The only classes I enjoyed at school were art, so I just entered every art contest,” he says. “But I would never win, because I would never follow the proper technique and rules. I had kind of that punk-rock spirit where you just want to do your own thing. So I’ve since had to learn proper techniques, and then I could do my own thing.”
For a long time, drawing took a backseat to his career. Bump has worked in the ministry at
various churches, and he moved to Lakeland seven years ago to work as the family pastor
at Oasis Church. Two years later, he was in a terrible accident; he was hit by a motorist while
bicycling in Jacksonville. “She struck me and I was thrown from my bike, and she ran over
me and dragged me about 25 feet,” Bump told me matter-of-factly. “She thought I was still
under her car, so she ended up backing over me. She ended up breaking all my ribs, both
my collarbones, my hands, and I had a bunch of internal injuries.” The weeks after the accident were a blur of surgeries spaced between long days in his hospital room. Bump marveled over his healing, saying, “That I’m able to walk again and everything else is just phenomenal.” During his long stay in the hospital, Bump passed the hours in his room by drawing. He drew throughout his healing process, but it was during a session with a counselor that his sketches become something more than a simple way to pass the time. “I realized I was
having some issues — some internal things — so I saw a counselor. And she told me I had post-traumatic stress disorder,” he says. “I didn’t expect that. I just knew I had bad anxiety.
I didn’t sleep; I’d just stay up late at night drawing. And she said a proper way to heal
was to do my artwork, so I just started leaving pieces around.”
Bump began leaving his sketches hidden in different places he visited. He took handfuls of small prints wherever he went — to coffee shops, to bookstores, to IKEA, even to Disney World — and hid them in unlikely places. He included notes with each print that asked people to tag him on Instagram and Twitter when they found his work, and the notifications started rolling in. People began asking him about his drawings, and he loved hearing others’ impressions of his work. “Someone asked me, ‘Hey, what’s the story behind this?’ and I asked, ‘Well, what do you think?’ And they had this whole elaborate story. I think it’s funny that people are making up their own stories for them,” he says. “It’s fun seeing everyone else’s imaginations run with it.”
Bump’s sketches include a wide variety of subjects, like teepees, hikers, Airstream trailers, and robots. Although many people find elaborate meanings in much of Bump’s work, he draws inspiration from his everyday life. Road trips with his family to the beach or mountains, days at the pool, and his children are all constant sources of inspiration. “I daydream a lot. I have a crazy imagination,” he says. “And Emmersyn and Fynn will come up with some crazy stories.” He laughingly says that his wife and in-laws tease him about his vivid daydreams, and that he can sometimes be caught typing ideas into his phone while in the middle of everyday activities or trips with the family.
His work has gained visibility online, and his influence in Lakeland is growing. He’s still hiding art around the country, but he’s also started to sell his prints and paintings at A Kind Place, an independent gift shop in Lakeland’s thriving Dixieland area. Near A Kind Place is one of Bump’s most ambitious projects to date — a metal sculpture that’s installed in the
same neighborhood that’s home to the gift shop and establishments like Fat Maggie’s, Concord Coffee, and Indie Atlantic.
The sculpture, which depicts a man working at an anvil, recalls the history of Bump’s own family whose members came over to the United States from Italy, bringing few of their belongings with them. “The only thing they really brought with them was this anvil,” Bump says. “They’d always build their own stuff, and [my great-grandfather] was an inventor.” That sense of creativity and independence was the inspiration for the sculpture. “The whole theme for the sculpture was supposed to be creative entrepreneurship,” he says. His ancestors’ creativity and determination is evident in the sculpture itself, which required that Bump learn how to weld in order to put it together.
Bump’s enthusiasm for his art is contagious, and he hopes that the momentum he’s gained in the community through projects like his sculpture will continue. Right now, he balances his ministerial work with his art, but he admits to dreaming about a day when he can make a living drawing and painting. “It’d be fun, one day, to just get up every morning and have it be all I do. But I love helping people, too,” he says. “I just want to draw. I want to see what happens. I want to see what the next level is.”
Bump is fiercely loyal to the community that gathered around him and his family after his
accident so many years ago. Until the day that he can support himself and his family with his art, he dreams of using his talent as a way to give back to the people who gave so much to him.
“I just want to bring a happiness and a hope here,” Bump says. “You know, we went through a
really rough time, and everyone helped us out and just bent over backwards. And I’m hoping my artwork can generate that feeling — that if you’re having a bad day or a bad moment, you can just look at a piece and it takes you away from there.”
Bump is achieving that goal. Whether you find a sketch of a robot hidden away in the back of
a bookstore or buy an original painting or commissioned portrait, you’ll feel the whimsy, simple joy, and vivid imagination that dominate all of his work. And, even on your worst day, you can take comfort in the knowledge that somewhere, in a little house on a quiet street, a man who has overcome terrible injuries and astonishing odds is drawing, and painting, and seeding joy in the community that he calls home.
Follow Bump Galletta Illustrations on www.bumpgalletta.com, and also on Twitter and Instagram @bumpgalletta.